Amendments give citizens a voice, responsibility in governance

Published 6:14 pm Monday, July 30, 2018

Since first becoming an independent state in 1776, North Carolina has had three constitutions that lay out the rules of the state’s governance. The first North Carolina Constitution was ratified shortly after the state’s independence. The second, revised after the Civil War, was ratified in 1868.

According to the Encyclopedia of North Carolina, there were more than 70 amendments to the North Carolina Constitution between 1868 and 1971, when the state’s newest constitution was adopted. Since that time, there have been more than 40 amendments placed on the ballot at various times.

Amendments to the N.C. Constitution, all of which must garner three-fifths approval in the General Assembly before being placed on the ballot, serve as an opportunity for the citizens of the state to weigh in directly on the powers vested in the various branches of state government. As a result of prior amendments, the constitution requires or allows for the following:

  • The state must pass a balanced budget.
  • The governor has veto power.
  • No convicted felon may run for sheriff.
  • State senators only serve for two years instead of four.
  • Counties and cities cannot implement tax increment bonds without voter approval.
  • Alternative punishments such as probation, restitution and community service are possible for those convicted of a crime.

The last time there was a constitutional amendment on the ballot was in 2014, when 53 percent of North Carolina voters voted in favor of allowing criminal defendants to waive their right to a trial by jury.

This November, state citizens will be asked to vote on six changes to our state’s foundational document, the most constitutional amendments on the ballot for a single election since 1982.

Voting on these amendments this November is a responsibility that every North Carolinian should take seriously, and that means becoming educated on intent and the potential impact of these changes.

For a look back at constitutional amendments since 1971, visit